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San Diego Council Approves Hines' Mixed-Use Redevelopment of Riverwalk Golf Course

$3 Billion Mission Valley Project Calls for Housing, Offices, Civic Spaces

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News

November 19, 2020 | 8:12 AM

San Diego City Council approved developer Hines’ planned $3 billion, multiphase redevelopment of the Riverwalk golf course in Mission Valley, expected to bring long-sought residential, office, retail, transit and civic elements to a fast-growing neighborhood in the city’s geographic center.

Hines plans to break ground in the second half of next year on the 200-acre project, which has been in the works for the past five years. It is expected to include 4,300 residential units, 10% of which will be set aside as affordable apartments under regional household income guidelines.

The project is also planned to include 152,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail, 1 million square feet of offices, a new light rail station, 100 acres of parks and open space and a restoration of a stretch of the San Diego River to provide new public access. Full build-out is expected in 2035.

Developers said elements are being configured to help the project function as a self-contained village and address longtime issues tied to congestion in one of San Diego’s most traffic-clogged neighborhoods.

“Our vision from the beginning was to create a village where people would have the option of living a car-free lifestyle,” Hines Managing Director Eric Hepfer said during the Nov. 17 meeting where City Council approved the project by an 8-0 vote, with one member absent.

“It’s an example of the smart growth philosophy the city has been preaching for a long time,” said Councilmember Scott Sherman, whose district includes Riverwalk.

The project was previously approved by the city Planning Commission and also received the blessing of several community planning groups, environmental and transit advocates. The groups have been looking to add much-needed parks and gathering spaces while minimizing chronic congestion created by numerous major regional freeways that flow through the 2,400-acre Mission Valley neighborhood.

The Riverwalk redevelopment and other upcoming projects in the neighborhood are also expected to help San Diego deal with a serious shortage of affordable workforce housing, by placing them in high-density but transit-friendly configurations.

More than a dozen people called in to the Tuesday council meeting, held virtually because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, to voice support for the project. There were also a few calls from opponents including Mission Valley resident Stacey Studebaker, who said the redevelopment doesn’t factor in recent changes brought about by the pandemic.

“Our needs as a community have changed drastically,” Studebaker said. “We don’t need the office space. We don’t need the high-market-rate housing. We don’t need the retail space. And we certainly don’t need the added traffic along the already-congested Friars Road.”

To address traffic concerns, the developer and Riverwalk’s current property owners, the Levi-Cushman family partnership, have been working with the city to plan transportation elements including improvements to freeway interchanges and entry points onto Friars Road, and tech-enabled “intelligent” traffic signals that gauge and react to traffic flow.

Mission Valley has one of San Diego’s highest concentrations of retail space with more than 5.4 million square feet including two major regional malls, according to CoStar data. But residents have complained for decades that much of that retail is not safely accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists and others not contributing to heavy local vehicle traffic.

Mission Valley is also among the region’s biggest office hubs with 7.3 million square feet of inventory, though much of the product there is older buildings not readily connected to residential enclaves. During the pandemic, similar to other office neighborhoods, Mission Valley office vacancy has climbed to 14.9% and the availability rate, including subleasable space, is now at 17%, CoStar data shows.

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